While Orange County’s top prosecutor gloats over last week’s grand jury report, which found there was no official snitch program in county jails, it’s worth noting that the report’s findings fall well short of exonerating the county’s top law enforcement officials.
The District Attorney’s Office has touted the report since its release last week, claiming that it vindicates both prosecutors and sheriff’s officials, who have been accused of running an illegal network of informants in county jails.
The scandal had loomed over the District Attorney’s Office since it was removed from prosecuting the worst mass killing in the county’s history — the case of Scott Dekraai, who murdered his ex-wife and seven others in a 2011 shooting spree.
While it’s true that the report, titled “The Myth of the Orange County Jailhouse Informant Program,” found that there was no such formal program, that finding appears to be based on the expectation that such a program would have a documented strategic plan, a schedule of informants, formal training, a dedicated budget, job descriptions and other such bureaucracy one would expect from a bona fide government agency.
The grand jury found none of these documents.
What the grand jury did find was that the county’s snitch scandal arose from “a few rogue deputies (who) got carried away with efforts to be crime-fighters.” According to this narrative, the rights of suspects weren’t violated intentionally, but rather because of “a lack of supervision and laziness in the practice of law.”
The grand jury notes that this lax supervision dates back to at least 2002, which is when a previous grand jury found leadership wanting in the OCDA’s office. The 2017 report notes: “After nearly 100 interviews with OCDA personnel, it became clear to the OCGJ that lack of leadership persists.”
The grand jury also found that while the DA’s office revised procedures for handling informants last August, most…